The spring high school sports season kicked off earlier this month in Woodland Park, with most teams already getting a chance to now hit the athletic fields and get some games in.
It’s still early in the season, and local athletes won’t start the brunt of their meaningful games until next week, following spring break. And like many springtime athletic jaunts in this area, weather has become the major foe.
Still, several local teams have made positive strides, with the prospects looking good for a successful year. When it comes to girls’ soccer and baseball, the teams have shown some good improvements during the handful of games they have played.
And, the track and field team looks like they are already producing some star athletes. The following are some highlights of the 2023 Woodland Park High School sports season so far.
Track & Field
The local track stars have had a few meets already and the team’s head coach, Jeremy Grier, already likes what he has seen. Even though the weather has still been a bit on the chilly side during meets, many of the athletes have already broken some of their personal records.
On March 18, the track stars competed at a meet during which senior Hayden Molina made history by becoming the second highest pole vaulter in school history with a vault of eight-feet and nine-inches. With her recent record-breaking vault, Molina has already qualified for the state competition for the third year in a row.
During the meet, the team secured several top five finishes, including a win in the 4 X 200 girls’ relay. Grier said that the relay team consisting of Melissa Kleppe, Allison Costello, Lydia Hitchcock, and Toni Ciccarelli, is looking strong early in the season, and have a good chance to make it to the state competition.
The team will head to Salida for a Pole Vault competition on March 31, and a varsity meet on April 1 at Salida High School.
So far the baseball team has made it through some games with chilling temperatures and cold wins. And despite the fact that they have come up short in a couple matches, they have still made giant strides in improving.
On March 18, the Panthers faced the Widefield Gladiators and they put on a great display of pitching and hitting despite their 7-3 loss. The game started off strong for the boys as they were ahead 3-0 after the first two and a half innings of the game. But unfortunately, Widefield mounted an impressive comeback and won the game.
According to the team’s new head coach, Chris Becker, pitching was the highlight of the Panthers effort on the diamond as senior Tanner McAfee and freshman Link Bryden combined for 12 strikeouts and only three walks. On the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers had five players collecting prime hits. More importantly, the team got on base for a total of 10 times.
The Panthers then lost at home last Tuesday to the Palmer Terrors 12-5 giving them an overall record of 1-4 and a 0-2 league record. The team’s next matchup is at home on April 3 against the Harrison Panthers at 3 p.m.
The girls’ soccer team so far has incurred a rough start their season, including some big losses and a game cancelled due to weather. But as the Lady Panthers keep playing, they continue to show signs of improvement.
On March 24, the girls fought a tough battle against the Coronado Cougars, but they ended up on top 3-2 after going into double overtime. “The WPHS Panthers were led by senior captain and midfielder Shea Waters, who scored the team’s first goal in the first half of play,” the team’s head coach Marcie James explained in a press release. “The goal was assisted by sophomore defender Rory Wedhoff, who took a free kick. Despite an early goal from Coronado, the teams headed into halftime with a tied score, reflecting the intense back-and-forth competition.”
In the second half, the Panthers took the lead when Waters secured a penalty kick. The Cougars then fired back by scoring a goal late in regulation play to tie it up.
The game stayed tied until the last part of the second overtime period. “With just one minute remaining in double-overtime, Kleppe made a determined run into the Cougar goal box and scored the winning goal, much to the delight of fans and teammates alike,” James said. “The Panthers’ victory was a testament to their teamwork and dedication, as every player on the field gave their all despite playing in chilly, windy conditions.”
The team played again against Doherty last Thursday and after two overtimes, the game ended in a 0-0 The team hits the field again on April 4 with a road game against the Canon City Tigers.
Celebrations Held For Lady Wrestlers
In other local sports news, a ceremony was held last week to congratulate two senior women wrestlers who have received scholarships to wrestle in college. Grappler Trinity Diamond signed on to wrestle with Hastings College, citing the school as her number one choice.
Senior Giana Roskam signed on to wrestle for Trinidad State College. Diamond has wrestled since she was 10 years old, but she only joined the WP team in her senior year.
During the ceremony, Athletic Director Chad Cosner reminded the crowd how much an achievement it is to work so hard to get the chance to play sports at the college level. “Competing at the secondary level is hard and I think it is less than five percent of high school athletes get the opportunity to do so,” Cosner said.
The team’s coach, Dustin Rodriguez, said that he was proud of both of the lady wrestlers and was happy that they were able to obtain their goals.
“We wanted her (Trinity Diamond) to win a state title this year, but we came a little short of that,” the coach said. “We were favored to win a state title this year with Trinity. But unfortunately, the week of state she got a respiratory illness that affected us big time.”